In Episode 2, Kieren’s best friend and secret boyfriend, Rick Macy, returns home from Afghanistan, now a PDS sufferer. As he was in life, Rick is torn between his father, Bill, who is toxic masculinity made flesh, and Kieren, who brings out another side to him, a softer side that’s hated by his father. In fact, Bill hates Kieren.
Kieren visits his own grave and becomes reacquainted with his undead hunting partner, Amy Dyer, who tells him about the day trips she’s been taking to get out of the house and move on with her life. She’s attracted to the Undead Prophet, so they debate the merits of the group. Amy helps Kieren find the strength to face the townspeople and makes quite an impression on them herself.
Dean finds a pair of feral PDS sufferers in the woods, leading to a showdown between Kieren and the HVF, with Rick in the middle. We learn that the government’s paying a hefty bounty for feral PDS sufferers who are brought in uninjured. We also learn that not all feral zombies are vicious killers.
Bill Macy accepts his PDS sufferer son back into his life, but refuses to acknowledge who his son is, either as a partially deceased person or in any other way that varies from his macho expectations for Rick. Rick goes along with the ruse, as he’s clearly always tried to live up to his father’s expectations. It’s already killed him once. Now, not only does he deny who he is, he allows his father to feed him cup after cup of poison and to almost convince him to murder other PDS sufferers like himself. When Kieren and Amy try to remind him of who he is and what his needs and limitations are, he denies reality. More tragedy is sure to follow.
Episode 2 picks up the morning after Maggie’s execution by Bill Macy. Kieren wakes up and the first thing he does is look at the painting of Rick that hangs opposite the end of his bed, specifically placed so that it’s the first thing he sees every morning. Something like relief goes through him at finding that Rick’s face is still there.
Rick’s face is everywhere in Kieren’s room. Kieren is a painter, and his main subjects are self-portraits, Rick, and his family. His walls are covered with portraits.
Kieren looks out his window at the spot where Ken’s wife Maggie died for the second time. Her black
blood bile still stains the pavement. Ken is sitting in his house staring at the spot, too. The rest of the Walkers can be heard arguing downstairs. Kieren puts on his mousse and contacts before he leaves his bedroom.
He stops in Jem’s room to thank her for warning him about the HVF the night before. She says that she did it for their parents, not for him. She didn’t want Sue and Steve to get hurt defending him, and doesn’t accept his thanks. She returns to the zombie hunting game she’s playing and kicks him out of the room. Kieren starts to leave, but comes back. “You and Bill Macy are best friends now? You know he’s always hated me!” Jem yells at him to, “Get out!” and slams her door shut.
She needs to be left alone with her cognitive dissonance. She’s also extra angry from the argument she just had with Sue and Steve, in which they forced her to promise to keep secrets from Kieren.
Kieren finds his parents in the kitchen, making breakfast. Steve offers Kieren coffee, but Kieren says he’s trying to cut down. Kieren is a master of irony and his parents give him constant opportunities to use it. But they never get the joke, since they’re too busy pretending everything is FINE. IT’S FINE. AND IT MIGHT RAIN LATER.
Speaking of… Kieren says it was a crazy night, and his parents talk about the weather. Kieren looks lost, like he’s landed on a different planet.
This type of attitude from Sue and Steve would be why Jem was angry enough after Kieren’s death to turn to Bill Macy and become the Rambo of Roarton. She had to work out her issues and express her feelings somehow.
Sue and Steve segue into discussing Steve’s work, which has something to do with civil engineering and the train station. Now that there’s been 3 inches of rain and trees are down, the station’s flooded, just as he predicted. His coworker Clive is handling the flood so that he can stay home with Kieren today, while Sue and Jem are out.
Jem comes into the room and brings up the ceremony she and Sue are attending. What ceremony? That’s the secret they were arguing about. Sue and Steve try to deny that they were hiding things, but Jem quotes them directly. Then she tells Kieren that it’s a ceremony honoring the people who died in The Rising. In other words, the people who had their brains eaten by people like him. Kieren recoils, while Sue and Steve yell at Jem to stop.
Shirley goes over Rick’s needs with Janet in preparation for his return. When she mentions that they’ll have access to a therapist, Bill gets angry and leaves the room, while shouting at her that none of them is daft. After Shirley leaves, Bill and Janet remove any evidence that Rick died. Rick is on his way home in an army truck, with an armed guard aiming at him for safety.
Kieren pulls out his shoebox again, this time taking out a handwritten note from Rick. It’s a card with Van Gogh on the front. On the back, Rick says, “Dear Ren, know this guy is your fave. You’re gonna go far. And I’ll be right there next to you, telling dumb jokes and embarrassing you. This sh-te with my Dad, I’ll sort it. I swear I will. Rick X”
He’s still looking at the card when Steve comes to make him watch a film downstairs. Steve doesn’t like the idea of him sitting alone in his room. Kieren cooperates, but doesn’t care about the film.
Downstairs, Steve prepares Kieren’s daily shot. He decides that it’s best to do the shot quickly. Kieren tries to argue with him, but he practically holds his son down as he tries to force the injection, and the doorbell rings at the same time. Not surprisingly, he botches the shot. He said it would be more painless for Kieren if he did it fast, but that was for his own benefit.
Kieren probably got some of the Neurotriptyline, so he’s working on a flashback as his father shoves him in an out of the way closet. Yup, for the second time in two episodes, the queer kid’s family shoves him back in the closet for his own protection. Then Steve answers the door to another realtor who wants to show the house.
Kiern, who tried to tell Steve that he’s claustrophobic now, is stuck in a small space with a malfunctioning flashlight. The flashes of light pull him back to when he woke up for the first time in his coffin at the beginning of The Rising, alone and trapped underground. He became frantic to get out while he was buried, and now starts to panic just as Steve retrieves him from the closet.
Kieren explains that he has flashbacks when he gets stressed, and Steve apologizes for putting him in the closet. Then Kieren asks why they buried him, when he wanted to be cremated. Steve just looks at Kieren, unable to even begin to answer that question without facing emotions and facts he doesn’t want to examine.
Steve is saved by the ringing phone. He’s needed to help with the emergency at work. Kieren talks Steve into going, insisting that he’ll be fine home alone. Steve takes the opportunity to get far away from difficult conversations.
As soon as Steve is gone, Kieren puts on a large hoodie and leaves the house. Shirley is comforting Ken. Another couple is preparing to hang up missing posters for their lost daughter. Kieren walks to the closed side of the graveyard, where he was buried, and visits his grave.
The ceremony for the living victims is in a different part of the graveyard, so Kieren’s not seen. Bill and Janet show up mid-ceremony to announce that Rick is coming back, and they expect the town’s support. Everyone wonders if Rick will be partially deceased.
Kieren’s parents put a poem on his gravestone, “Gone is the face we loved so dear.
Silent is the voice we loved to hear.” He lived from 1991-2009. Kieren flashes back to rising out of his grave, with others rising around him. He saw his hunting partner, Amy Dyer, rising at the same time. The holes in the ground are still in front of all of the tombstones.
Kieren sees Amy in the distance now, visiting her grandmother’s grave, but doesn’t know who she is. She spots him, then says she recognizes him. He thinks she’s alive, and runs. She catches up to him and is impaled on the stick he’s holding out threateningly. Then she bursts out laughing, because he thought for a moment he’d killed her.
Amy is a breath of fresh air. She’s open, honest, vivacious, and full of good humor. She appreciates her second chance at life, and no one’s going to stop her from living it to the fullest. She wears bright colors and swirly dresses, instead of the dark neutrals favored by everyone else in town.
Amy likes the verse on Kieren’s gravestone. She asks if he picked it out. He didn’t. He was dead. And he wanted to be cremated. He’s still not sure if he’s okay with how it turned out.
Amy has a Dylan Thomas poem on her gravestone, which she did pick out, “Do not go gently into that good night, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” She planned her death in detail.
Kieren tries to say goodbye, but Amy lures him back, since she knows that all he’s going to do is continue to relive the past. She’s been going on day trips to stop herself from dwelling on the past. She talks Kieren into going with her.
The town gathers in front of the Macys’ house to watch Rick come home. He climbs out of the back of the truck and scans the crowd, looking for Kieren. Sue and Jem are there, instead. Rick has severe wounds on the left side of his head, with staples holding large gashes closed. His left leg is in a cast so that it’s straight and stiff, making him limp.
He goes to Bill and shakes his hand, then kisses Janet’s cheek. He worriedly looks for Kieren again. No one says a word, but Bill looks proud.
Amy and Kieren go to a carnival. Kieren is nervous, while Amy revels in the excitement. They argue over the necessary amount of mousse. Amy says she’s considering going without it. In public.
Bill and Rick do some target practice in back of their house. The metaphorical and real potential of Amy’s statement is clear.
Bill notices that Rick is wearing a medal. Rick says it’s for valor. Keep that in mind as the rest of this episode and the next one play out.
Was shooting things really the first thing Rick wanted to do after 4 years away from home? We’ve seen the flashbacks Kieren has. Rick was in an actual war before The Rising. Does he need more violence, pretend or otherwise, to stir up his brain?
This is probably what Bill and Rick have done to bond since Rick was 5 years old.
Janet is hiding in the bathroom, trying and failing to get through to the PDS hotline. She gives up and takes some anxiety meds.
As Sue and Jem walk home, Sue says that Bill’s fooling himself and hasn’t accepted what Rick is. Jem says that they won’t do that, right? They’ll tell Kieren about Rick? Sue’s silence says the answer is no.
Sue recognizes Bill’s behavior because it’s her own, and Steve’s. They don’t want to fully admit what Kieren is, queer and partially deceased, and they don’t want Rick in his life again, because losing Rick was the catalyst for his suicide.
As Amy and Kieren ride the rides at the carnival, she argues that a second chance at life should be approached with gusto and joie de vivre. The living are always afraid of dying, but they’ve faced that fear already. Kieren realizes that she’s been on the Undead Prophet’s website. She says that he has some good ideas. She quotes a mash-up Bible verse, Revelation 21:4/Matthew 22:30: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes for when they shall rise from the dead, they are as angels which are in heaven.”
Being a zombie is like being in heaven. No thoughts=no worries. PDS might mean immortality.
In the haunted house, Kieren sees Lisa around every corner, while Amy feels no guilt over her acts while in an untreated state.
Rick asks his parents about the Walkers, and Bill says they’re fine. He brags about what a great fighter Jem is, despite coming from a family of losers. Janet brings up the bad patch they went through, before The Rising, but then doesn’t want to elaborate on it for Rick. She says that Kieren had something wrong in his head, then Bill blurts out that Kieren was a selfish weakling who killed himself. Bill eats a sandwich, while Rick blasts his target with everything he’s got.
Janet walks away. She knew about Rick’s close friendship with Kieren, at least, and was sympathetic. Bill doesn’t see his actual son at all, then or now, only the carricature of a real man that he wants his son to live up to. He hated Kieren and has no sense of Rick’s pain in this moment.
While Kieren is watching Amy on one of the rides, someone from his past recognizes him and figures out that he’s partially deceased. His ex-friend alerts the rest of the carnival crowd that there’s a rotter in their midst. Most scream and run away, but several chase Kieren. Despite his zombie-like lack of coordination, he outpaces them, and eventually loses them.
He cuts through the woods to get home, and sees a vision of Lisa, again. She leads him to a cave entrance. Since she’s in his mind, he must already know this cave. Kieren doesn’t follow Lisa into the cave. He does take the “Missing Person” poster that her parents have put up on a community bulletin board, so that he can talk to them about her.
HVF members Gary and Dean approach the vicar to request payment for patrolling the woods. They assume that Bill will be quitting, now that he has a partially deceased son to take care of, so they’ll have to pick up extra shifts. Vicar Oddie grumbles and rages, but Philip says the parish can afford to pay them, so Oddie gives in.
Sue and Jem beat Kieren home, but don’t go in the house. They wait out front, by the street, for Steve to get home, to discuss the Rick situation. Sue and Steve, who never met an awkward situation they couldn’t avoid, decide that they just won’t tell Kieren that Rick is now living down the street again. Jem argues that Kieren will obviously find out, but the parents are willing to put it off until he finds out on his own, gambling that they can keep him locked inside for the foreseeable future.
How stupid do they think Kieren is, and how isolated do they intend to keep him? Will they try to force him to avoid looking out of windows and doors, so that Bill doesn’t see him and he doesn’t see Rick? This is turning into a pathological level of avoidance on their part.
Kieren sneaks in the side door while his clueless parents argue in the front yard. He gets set up at the computer just in time to pretend that he never left the house. It turns out that Kieren’s wearing Steve’s hoodie, so Kieren pretends to be cold.
Kieren is relearning how to repress and avoid, just like dear old dad.
Down at the Legion, bartender Pearl is removing all of the photos that make the HVF look like trophy hunters with PDS sufferers as their prizes. Gary tries to argue, but she says the display could be offensive to some patrons. Meanwhile, Philip puts a couple of cheap chairs in the hallway to the bathrooms, with a cardboard sign that says it’s the PDS sufferers area.
Being segregated to a hallway will definitely make them feel welcome.
The Macys, including Rick, enter the pub. When Philip tries to escort them to the hallway, Bill shouts over him to ask who’s buying the returning war hero drinks.
The Walkers are eating dinner. Kieren, who is still full on pretending to eat, with a plate of food and compliments to the cook, sits at the table. Jem, who is actually eating, sits on the couch and complains that Kieren is at the table pretending to eat. Jem might be the only person to survive this household.
Then the doorbell rings. Steve and Jem argue over whether she can keep her handgun in the house or not while Sue answers.
It’s Amy! Sue takes one look at Amy and is gobsmacked. Amy invites herself in and sits down at the dinner table, talking frankly about not being able to eat and what happens if she does. All while going au naturel- no contacts or mousse. It’s glorious.
Jem storms out of the room again. Could turn into a fun drinking game- drink when she storms out, yells at someone else to get out, or refuses to come out of a room. That would take care of most of her scenes.
Kieren brings Amy up to his room, telling her not to talk to his parents like that- meaning, with honesty. He says they don’t like admitting he’s partially deceased. Amy thinks that Kieren and his parents should be getting used to it, but Kieren doesn’t think so.
That’s a little frightening from someone who tried to kill himself not that long ago (as far as his fully conscious time goes). It sounds like he’s not investing in his new life.
Jem searches for the rest of the HVF patrol, but no one answers on the radio. She runs into Dean, and tries to join him. Dean informs her that according to Bill’s orders, she can’t go on patrol anymore. Bill found out that Kieren was seen in public, and figured out that Jem knew he was back, but didn’t say anything. Bill feels it’s a betrayal of trust.
That would be the Bill who’s currently trying to convince everyone at the pub that his zombie son is fully alive. The real reason he doesn’t want Jem around is because Bill doesn’t want Rick reminded of Kieren in any way, but, as we saw when he arrived in town, he doesn’t need reminders. Those two are always looking for each other. It’s the first thing they each did in this episode.
At the pub, Rick chats weaponry with Gary and answers some hard questions from Philip. Philip isn’t tactful, but he’s honest and he thinks about things. He asks if Rick regrets signing up, and Rick answers that he was the happiest he’s ever been in the military. They were like the family he’s never had, one who always have your back no matter what.
I’m somewhat surprised that he’d say that with his parents in hearing range, but Bill will just be proud that his son was successful in the army and won’t figure out that Rick just said that his parents failed him. Janet will catch the meaning, but she already knows she failed to stop her husband from bullying and abusing their son.
Amy tells Kieren that she loves his family. She asks if he had a chance to say goodbye before he died, and what killed him. When he doesn’t answer, she unbuttons the front of her dress to show him to remains of her chemo/iv scars from treatment for leukemia. (That’s my interpretation, based on what I know about treatments. If it’s something else, let me know.)
Amy (tearing up): “Last thought I remember thinking was that it was so unfair. Like I’d been benched before I’d even got to play the game. What was your last thought?”
Kieren: “I don’t know. I just remember feeling relief.”
Amy: “Relief? How did you croak, Kieren Walker?”
Kieren pulls up the sleeves of his sweater to show the slices and stitches still in his wrists. Amy whispers, “Why?” Then she gathers him up in a big, heartfelt hug. Kieren looks over her shoulder at the painting of Rick at the end of his bed.
Jem dramatically opens the bedroom door. Does she think he’s about to cheat on Rick? Was she listening to their conversation? Is she worried he’ll try again if he continues to believe Rick is gone? Whatever the reason, Jem goes against Sue and Steve’s wishes, and tells Kieren that Rick is alive. It’s also a way to coincidentally get some revenge on Bill, but I don’t think she’d use Kieren that badly.
Kieren storms downstairs, with Amy following. When he yells at Sue and Steve for not telling him about Rick, he shows more life than he has the whole time we’ve known him. Amy and Kieren take off for the pub.
Bill is teasing Rick that the girl he used to like is now Gary’s girlfriend. Must be real slim pickings in that town. Gary doesn’t appear to have an actual job. Then he gives Rick a shot to go with the beers he’s bought him. Rick drinks it all, then goes to the mens room to vomit it all up as black bile.
When Kieren and Amy get to the pub, he panics. He’s banned for life- Amy reminds him that he’s dead, so it’s fine. The Legion hated him before he was partially deceased, just for being different. Amy reminds him that Rick’s in there, so they go ahead in anyway.
Bill is offended that the vicar hasn’t come to Rick’s welcome home party. Philip tries to smooth things over, but Bill won’t be placated.
Amy and Kieren breeze into the pub, Amy still without contacts or mousse. The pub goes silent. Pearl tells them have to order a drink, so they get the cheapest thing she has. Bill starts to make a scene because there are rotters in the pub. Philip approaches to show them to the PDS section.
They follow Phil, with Amy voicing her displeasure and Kieren saying “hi” to Phil. Once they’re in the hall, and Phil’s on his way out, Rick comes out of the bathroom.
Rick and Kieren come face to face. Their hearts grow wings and flutter around the ceiling together, while they lock eyes. Unicorns jump over rainbows on the floor. They finally say hello, and reach out to shake hands, but they forget to shake, and just hold hands for way too long, while staring into each other’s eyes.
Amy and Philip try not to be in the way. Eventually, seating arrangements come up. Rick yells at “Lippy” that he can’t exclude Ren, ’cause it’s Ren! Ren gets Amy a free pass out of the hall, too.
Dean patrols the woods and plays a game on his phone, until he runs into a feral PDS sufferer. Then he panics. It’s hard to tell which one is the zombie.
Kieren and Rick reminisce about old times while Gary sexually harasses Amy, then Kieren. Rick proves to be a problematic fave when he laughs at the homophobic joke Gary makes at Kieren’s expense. He’s already used a slur for intellectual disabilities. The tragic, self-loathing nature of this love story isn’t hard to understand.
They really love each other, and there’s a good guy inside of Rick, but Roarton and their parents really messed them both up. Rick’s internalized homophobia alone would probably be enough to have killed him, and kill him again, never mind the PDS and everything else he’s got hidden inside. I don’t think there’s been a single honest thing in his life, except for loving Kieren and his mother.
Amy calls Rick on his toxic alcoholic beverage consumption. He tries to claim that he’s not partially deceased, but she won’t let it go. Before she can get him to admit anything, Dean comes in and reports that he’s found a rotter. The HVF jumps up to take care of it, with Bill calling for Rick to come with him. Rick asks if Kieren can come along. Bill makes sure Kieren knows they’re hunting someone like him.
And so, a tiered system for PDS sufferers begins.
When they reach the woods, Rick and Kieren stay back in the car. Rick asks why Kieren is the way he is.
Kieren: “When you died, everything turned to s–t. Life didn’t mean anything any more.”
Rick: “So you… Offed yourself? You shouldn’t have done that, Ren…[Rick pounds his fists and head on the back of the car seats repeatedly in anguish.] How could you do that? Had the whole world at your feet!”
Kieren: “Did I?”
Rick: “You got into art school! Full scholarship, you were out of here, mate! Flying high!”
Kieren: “I didn’t have much without you.”
Rick: “You can’t put this on me.”
Kieren: “Can’t I?”
Rick: “We’d already said goodbye.”
Kieren: “That wasn’t a goodbye.”
Rick: “It was.”
Kieren: “We drank a bottle of white lightning, smoked a few f-gs, messed around, and then you said, ‘All right, see you tomorrow.’ Next thing I know, you’ve gone to Preston for basic training. I didn’t hear nothing from you after that, nothing!”
Rick: “I wanted to make it easier on you.”
Kieren: “Easier on yourself, you mean. I wrote thousands of letters. Why didn’t you reply to me?”
Rick: “Didn’t get any letters. I didn’t! I thought you’d just forgotten about me.”
Kieren: “How could I forget about you?”
Rick: “Well, you were going away. New place, new people.”
Kieren: “No, that’s what you did, Rick. That’s exactly what you did. Not me. I kept us going. In my head, I kept us alive.”
They’re interrupted by Bill, hurrying them along through the radio. Rick blames Kieren for taking so long. Kieren tells Rick that he doesn’t have to do everything Bill tells him to do anymore. Rick looks at him and says, “He’s my dad, Ren.”
When they get out of the car, Kieren follows the sounds back to the cave. Rick comes along, and calls it, “the old den.” There is an adult male zombie and a little girl zombie eating sheep’s brains next to the cave entrance. The man is taking care of the girl. They are feral, but not rabid.
Kieren thinks what they’re seeing is sweet, but Rick radios his father.The zombies hear him and move away. Dean catches up to them and wrestles with them, getting bitten by one. He becomes very dramatic, preparing to shoot himself in the head before he turns into a zombie in 20 seconds. Kieren becomes the only sane man in this scene, explaining that PDS isn’t contagious, and it’s already been more than 20 seconds. The funniest thing is when Dean checks his watch, to prove it’s really been 20 seconds, as if he totally checked it right after he was bitten.
Bill takes control of the situation. Gary and Dean have discussed how much the bounty for the zombies is worth, and are eager to cash them in. Bill asks Rick what he thinks they should do, by way of baiting him to say terrible things about himself, as well. Rick complies, saying the father and daughter are disgusting and evil. He prepares to kill them, at his father’s request.
Kieren stands in front of Rick’s weapon, trying to talk him out of shooting people who are just like them, and who can be treated with medication, the same way they’re being treated. Kieren switches to only referring to himself as partially deceased, not Rick, but he takes one contact out to remind Rick of the truth of what they look like. Bill continues to push Rick to shoot. Rick drops his gun. Bill’s gun jams.
Kieren brings the prospect of collecting the reward money, instead of shooting them, to a vote. Gary and Dean vote with him. Rick does not. 3 out of 5 wins and Dean collects the zombies.
I think, in that last scene, that Kieren didn’t actually remind Rick that the 2 zombies were like himself, so much as he let Rick know that Kieren is actually ugly, too. With long sleeves, mousse and contacts, Kieren looks normal. He doesn’t feel normal inside, but he can pass, as he did at the carnival. Whereas Rick is a mess, with a Frankenstein face and a leg that’s held together somehow. He can’t deny what he is, and the staples add to his feelings that he’s disgusting and evil, too, both for being gay and for being partially deceased. Knowing that Kieren really does get it, allowed Rick to hate himself a little less, which allowed him to ignore his father that one time.
It could be that Gary and Dean were hoping that Bill would give up patrolling, because he’s so trigger happy. He’s cutting into a lucrative potential source of income for them.
During the war, Jem did what she had to do to survive and make sense of her world, including work with Bill Macy. A fanatic like Bill was needed, at the time, to rally the townspeople into shooting their risen neighbors and loved ones. Kieren was dead, and Jem was angry with him. What he might have felt, had he been alive, wasn’t an issue, since he’d chosen to abandon her without even saying goodbye.
The Rising was, in a sense, a civil war, made up of friends and families fighting each other, on opposite sides of a divide no one wanted, but which couldn’t be avoided. Now, everyone, on both sides, has to find a way to come to terms with their part in it, whether they killed zombies who could have been saved and returned to normal lives or killed the living so that they themselves could survive. It makes for a complex reality, in which heroes like Jem, who saved lives, end up feeling like villains and monsters become victims who are also still killers, like Kier3n.
Creator Dominic Mitchell on Kieren’s sexual orientation:
I wanted my protagonist to be… I know there’s this debate raging, is Kieren gay? Is he straight? Is he queer? and all that, and I personally hate labels: PDS sufferer, the Redeemed, Undead, Rotter… all those labels, which are put on people as well, I wanted to tackle.
Kieren just happens to fall in love with the people he falls in love with. He fell in love with Rick… Like that all-encompassing Romeo and Juliet thing that we had between Kieren and Rick. Let’s stay away from labels, I don’t like labels.
(Sorry for the clumsy editing. This interview with DenofGeek was done at the end of season 2, and there was no graceful way to get rid of the spoilers. Click on Mitchell’s name to read the full interview. He implies that Kieren is open to finding love with a woman, since gender doesn’t affect who he’s attracted to. Since Mitchell doesn’t want to label him, I’ve decided to use queer, as the most open of the LGBTQ labels, when I want to refer to his sexual orientation.)
In this episode, it’s confirmed that Kieren is an artistic, sensitive person who loves loyally and deeply. Kieren loves his family, and tries to make them happy. That may have contributed to his major depression in the past.
He doesn’t go out of his way to look for trouble or to stand up for himself, but he will put himself at risk to protect others. While Rick has a medal for bravery, it was Kieren who stood in front of a gun and argued four people out of murder, when three of them wanted him dead as well.
Kieren’s love for Rick, combined with Rick’s continued inability to stand up to his father or reconcile the two sides of himself, may lead Kieren down the same dark road to suicide that they did the first time. While Amy isn’t a love interest, she is a truth teller who brings a fresh perspective to Roarton, and that might help Kieren in the long run.
The conversation that Amy and Kieren have about their deaths, just before he finds out that Rick is alive, is huge for both of them, but especially for Kieren. We’ve watched Kieren start to fade away again, as Jem rejects him, his parents avoid him, and he’s kept isolated inside the house. Amy is the first person to just talk to him honestly as another human being. Being able to express and process their thoughts and feelings about their deaths, and think of them as normal experiences, is a big deal. Being shown compassion and understanding is a big deal.
Amy is also the first person to touch Kieren. No one in his family has hugged or kissed him since he’s been back. They keep their distance, as if they still don’t trust him. He’s only touched when he gets his daily shot. Then it’s done as quickly as possible, followed by traumatic flashbacks. Amy and Kieren both melted into that hug as if they were touch starved.
Kieren and Rick only briefly touch, but they do talk honestly about most things. Between talking about his suicide and talking about the end of his relationship with Rick, Kieren got some closure in this episode. The change it brings about in him is immediate. He is no longer hiding in a closet or running away. He’s pulling out every logical argument he can find to save other PDS sufferers, and putting himself literally and directly in the line of fire. He’s done with fear and running, and ready to live again.
The big take aways from Rick and Ren’s conversation in the car: They have the basis for a functional relationship. They are able to talk openly and honestly with each other and clear the air, when they get the chance, but the world works against them at every turn. Rick is easily swayed away from the relationship and has picked up some of his father’s abusive techniques, such as gaslighting, using backhanded comments and scapegoating.
They can’t have a healthy relationship without Rick breaking away from his father and developing some awareness of the unhealthy techniques he’s using that hurt and demean Kieren. But he just told Kieren that he’ll never break away from his father. And he just showed us how important Kieren is to him. So he hasn’t learned anything, and now he has something else to hide and be torn in two over.
Someone stole Kieren’s letters to Rick, probably Bill or Janet. Someone was actively trying to keep them apart. Bill has definitely been gaslighting Rick about Kieren and trying to keep them apart. But the advice that it would be easier for Kieren to move on if Rick made a clean break with him sounds more like something that would come from Janet than Bill. Janet might have thought she was keeping her family together, by stopping Kieren from tearing them apart.
Dominic Mitchell on the sheep brains that the feral zombies are eating:
Can I ask about some specific plot points and whether you’d originally planned to do a bit more with them if you’d had more time? The sheep brain idea, for instance?
I put that in series one and then we had to take it out. I always thought brains would make them feel very, very good. When PDS sufferers are in their Rabid state it’s actually not… Alex says something in series one in the group therapy he goes to, he says being a Rabid is a better place to be and I always thought that was really interesting, the idea that there’s not a thought in your head. For Amy, that is a terrifying and awful idea, but for other PDS sufferers, it actually might not be, it might be liberating to not have to think and not have all this guilt and shame and morals and ethics going about in your head. I think the sheep brains gets them back into that sort of state of being, whilst being aware as well. There will be more sheep brains, yes!
So when they eat the brains of other large mammals, feral zombies get enough juice to have some brain function, but not enough to return to a normal cognitive state. They’re aware of their surroundings, but not able to feel all of the complex negative emotions that drag people down in life. Don’t worry, be happy, eat sheep’s brains. The feral zombies probably are eating the sheep because it’s available and it gives them enough cognitive function to improve their hunting and basic reasoning skills.
Images courtesy of BBC America.